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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 6, 2023

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Paris-Nice stage one reports

We posted the organizer's stage one report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Tim Merlier's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Tim Merlier won on the opening day of a stage race for the third time this season. After his successful outings with Soudal Quick-Step at the Tour of Oman and the UAE Tour in February, the 30-year-old repeated the feat also in Paris-Nice, at his debut here.

Tim Merlier (center) gets another victory.

The Wolfpack’s most successful rider so far this season, Tim benefited from another outstanding job from his teammates, who not only controlled the early breakaway, but neutralized two dangerous attacks in the last hour of the race, the last of which was with just three kilometers to go. Kasper Asgreen and Mauro Schmid then stretched out the peloton before French Champion Florian Sénéchal picked up the pace, drilling it at the front until 300 meters to go.

Just like in the Middle East, Tim remained calm and kicked out 200 meters from the line, bursting clear of his opponents and scoring his fourth victory of the year with another hugely impressive sprint. The win in La Verrière came along with two visits to the podium for Tim, who got in possession of the yellow and green jersey.

“Today was a hard and nervous day, but the guys worked hard and believed in me, and that added to my motivation. I am twice happy: because I could repay them with this win and because I received that small plush lion, which I will give to my son when I am back home.”

“The boys were flawless today, the way they controlled everything on this tricky parcours was just wow. Tim brought back the escapees, Kasper did a really long pull in the closing kilometers, then Florian piloted me in the finale. I was well placed in the last two corners, and from that moment on it was just about waiting for the perfect moment. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be part of this amazing squad. To win at my debut here feels incredible”, Tim said after racking up the team’s 18th stage victory at Paris-Nice.

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Here's the report from second-place Sam Bennett's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The 8-day race Paris-Nice (2.UWT) kicked off in France today with a 169.4 km long stage. Narrow roads, wind-exposed terrain and two cat.3 climbs made for an exciting day of racing. An early, two-rider breakaway was up the road for most of the day but was brought back at 30km from the finish line. Attacks then followed over the final 20km but ultimately it came down to a bunch sprint. Tim Merlier took the win while Sam Bennett secured a second place finish.

Sam Bennet (on left) took second.

“A big shoutout to my teammates, who did a great job and kept track of everything, especially in the hectic finale. The final 30km were quite tough, but I felt really good, which gives me confidence for tomorrow's flat stage.“ Sam Bennett

“It was a cold day with a pretty hot finale! Unfortunately, Bob Jungels and Nils Politt were involved in a crash on the penultimate climb and so were missing from our lead out. Danny van Poppel did a great job leading out Sam Bennett, who was defeated in a tight finish. Of course we want to fight for victory here, but we're definitely happy to kick off Paris-Nice with a second place finish. We’ll have another chance tomorrow!“ Rolf Aldag, Sports Director

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Third-place Mads Pedersen’s Team Trek-Segafredo posted this report:

A lively start to the 81st Paris-Nice saw Danish fast man Mads Pedersen sprint to the podium after a tense final. Pre-race favorite Tadej Pogačar attacked on the final ramp to claim an important six seconds in bonus seconds, dragging three others with him in the effort. All four escapees were eventually reeled in in time for a sprint finish, but it was far from a straightforward run in with a series of corners in the final kilometer. Mads Pedersen, who recently returned from a two-week training camp in Spain, was aided by Mattias Skjelmose, Otto Vergaerde and Daan Hoole in the fast finish. Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) took the win, followed by Sam Bennett (BORA-Hansgrohe) with Pedersen rounding off the podium.

Time to race to the sun.

A word from Mads:
“The sprint itself was quite ok but I did a mistake myself which opened up a gap in the last corner. It’s a big mistake to open up a few meters there because it costs a lot of energy and I had to start the sprint early. In the end I came quite fast, so it’s a good sign for the rest of the race.

"At the bonus sprint I knew Pogačar and the others would go for it, and I was also pretty sure that if they had a gap they would keep going, but it was a tough finish with that headwind in the final 4km. Luckily, Soudal-Quickstep had enough guys to keep the speed high and close it, because otherwise I think they would be gone. The two climbs were pretty hard already – the short steep one was pretty painful. From The last climb to the finish line it was tough to keep the position but Mattias came to help me along with Otto and Alex. Mattias did the leadout from 1.5 to 750 meters and did a really impressive job so I think his legs are ready for tomorrow.

"The stage was hard enough for me as I haven’t raced for a while, a pretty decent day.”

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Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates posted this:

Tadej Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates got the ‘Race to the Sun’ off to a fine start, taking the bonus seconds on offer to get the edge on several general classification rivals on stage 1 of Paris-Nice starting and finishing in La Verrière (169.4km).

There were a maximum of 6” bonus seconds on offer over the top of the final climb at -5km to go with Pogačar cresting first and taking a precious advantage on his rivals. Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) would take the victory and race lead heading into stage 2 from Bazainville to Fontainebleau (163.7km) with Pogačar in 3rd spot on GC at +4”.

Pogacar now leads the young rider's classification.

Pogačar: “The guys worked really well today. It wasn’t too windy but we had small technical roads and it was quite hectic at times. I tried to push on a bit over the last climb but I could see it wasn’t working so we sat up. We will have many days ahead to push on. I’m happy to have taken the bonus seconds and to be in the white jersey.”



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